A few nights ago I attended the FourAthens mentor panel which was a great discussion around what mentors are, do, and are looking for in mentees. The panel also included a few mentees that provided experiences as well as their thoughts on the mentor/mentee relationship.
Here are a few takeaways:
Mentors are there to mentor the person and not the business.
Advisors mentor the business.
Mentors should be willing to open the rolodex.
Mentors have different styles so find the one that works for you.
Don’t ask mentors to get on sales calls, make documents or “work” your business.
It is ok the ask for advice in the mentors area of work but don’t treat them like a consultant.
Don’t be closed minded, you are supposed to have hard conversations.
As entrepreneurs we are always learning and growing. Once we are enlightened in one area we find out that there is just as much to learn in another area. This is why I enjoyed what I consider the quote of the night. Being a first time entrepreneur is a “Fog of Unknowing”.
The final take away from the meeting was that most mentees are looking for three types of relationships or assistance. They are mentors, advisors and consultants. The mentor and mentee need to agree on which role is being filled, up front, to ensure a good working relationship.
I recently read an article from one of my favorite local professional bloggers that wrote about diversifying income streams. In the article he posed a very important question which was “If my #1 source of income was gone tomorrow…. what would I have left?”
This struck me as a pretty powerful thought and exercise. If my #1 ___________ was gone tomorrow…….. what would I have left? The next question is, what would I do? Planning for disaster isn’t a fun task and takes a lot of deep thought. Unfortunately this type of planning and exercise doesn’t happen enough in businesses.
Here are a few questions that I asked myself:
What if my top engineer left tomorrow?
What if my top top salesperson left?
What if my #1 business revenue stream was somehow cut off?
What if my best strategic partner went out of business?
Have you asked yourself these questions lately?
These loses could be devastating to many businesses. In fact, there was a time when this would have been totally catastrophic to my own business.
Yes, now it would be a huge blow to lose some of my key people. We are somewhat of a family and we work well together, but that does not mean that I am blind to the fact that they are talented and someday they may choose to move on. This is reality in today’s business world.
The one thing I and many successful business people I know do to lighten the blow when this does happen, is to always look for new talent.
Building relationships with quality people in all avenues of your business will allow you a pool of people to pick from when a position does open up. It is much easier to ask somebody you know, and know their work, to come work for you than to hope the right person comes your way after a position opens. Networking is the key to keeping the candidate pool full at all times.
Obviously you don’t want to live your life or run your business based on fear but you should be asking yourself the hard questions and planning accordingly.
About a week ago my wife received a call from a trash company that was trying to gain more customers in our area. They offered to provide the same service that we were currently receiving but at a lower price and with an additional large trash can for recyclables. Although we weren’t really looking to switch companies we would be getting more value at a lower price so we accepted their offer.
After that call we had to call the current trash company to cancel our service and apparently the person on the other end of the phone was not happy about our switch. She proceeded to tell my wife that this was a bad decision, that this was a large company pushing little companies out of business and that we would regret when we pay fuel surcharges at a later point. These were all good points and needed attention but that is not the point of the post.
What it really comes down to is selling value on what many would consider a commodity. Following the recap from my wife I thought to myself, how did this smaller and likely more agile company prove their value while we had the service and would that have kept us from switching?
The fact is that the savings were minimal and the extra can, for times of need, was a bonus. This means that a little more value from the original company would have easily kept us from switching. This begs the question; “What value could they have provided, this is just trash service, right?”
They could have done any of the following things:
1. Called me at a regular interval to make sure we were satisfied with the service.
2. Called occasionally to make sure our trash cans get put back in the right place and aren’t laying in the street after service.
3. Offered to get our trash cans if they weren’t at the curb on trash day ( how many times have you forgotten to get the trash up? )
4. Offered one emergency pickup a quarter. This would be great after entertaining guests.
5. Given me a tight time range that they would show up each week in case I forgot to get it out the night before. I could then know if they had gone by already or not.
I am sure that there a many other ways this company could have provided value which would have kept me from switching, but they didn’t.
What are you doing to provide more value than you competitors? Are there things you know that you should be doing but haven’t had the time to do?
After highlighting Adroll in Adroll Retargeting Gets Noticed I decided I should highlight one lesson that I learned as well as my plan for the next iteration.
I have been testing LinkedIn, Adwords and Facebook ads along with Adroll and one thing that never happened on the first three services was an outrageous charge for a click. After being charged a ridiculous fee for a few clicks on Adroll I had to find out why. It seems that LinkedIn, Adwords and Facebook make setting a max bid a requirement and if it isn’t then it stands out very well when building a campaign. On AdRoll there is no max bid option visible until after the campaign is launched. So lesson one of using AdRoll, make sure you set a max bid or you will get a surprise.
When I started my first campaign I selected a large number of sites utilizing 8 different ad sizes. After 85,000 impressions a few things stood out. There were two sites with click through rates that were roughly 4 times higher than all other sites. In conjunction with the higher click through rates, the cost per click rate was near the lowest. A few quick clicks showed that both of the sites were using the same size ad.
My next iteration will focus on building awareness and will be a standard campaign. I will launch a new campaign targeting the sites above using the single banner ad. The more focused site targeting and lesson learned will ensure that I get a more efficient campaign and without skewed metrics from a few unusually high click costs.
At a recent networking event I was completely amazed when an individual contributor from a nearby Lowes showed up and introduced themselves at one of the round tables. I am not speaking of a director or contractor salesperson but an individual contributor that works on the floor in a specific department who is out promoting the company. In an age where personal connection means more than ever, this person went out and made connections.
What are your employees doing to help make personal connections?
Do you provide incentive for individual contributors ( non sales ) to go outside the walls of the business?
At the beginning of the last Atlanta Bloggers Meetup the organizer kicked off by giving out prizes for those that were getting social about the Meetup. What I observed was a great strategy that made everyone in the room aware that he needed their help to spread the word.
Here is how it works:
Start off with a question related to attendees spreading the word such as
“Everyone who Tweeted that they were coming to Atlanta Bloggers tonight raise their hand”
Multiple people raise their hand…. Or don’t. If multiple people raise their hand then follow up with an additional question to narrow the field. Something like:
“Of those people, how many invited a friend?”
Once the group is narrowed down to one or two, hand them a $5 gift card.
Rinse and repeat until multiple questions have been asked and multiple cards have been given out.
The great thing about this approach is that it is inexpensive, easy to do and lets everyone know that you need their help. The questions are based on simple social tasks that anyone could do.
What kind of simple techniques are you using to get people to be social about your event?
Many new CRM or back office implementations have requests for integrated systems. This could be the best of breed CRM and Accounting system which will need to be integrated or another solution that has both CRM and Accounting in one package. With each approach there are pros and cons.
Best of Breed Integration
The best of breed integration means that you choose the top applications and integrate the two. This can be done with a 3rd party integration or with a custom integration.
- You get two tools that are best of breed and do the job exceptionally well
- Best of breed tools usually have a following and therefore you have access to a plethora of resources such as consultants, tutorials, training and addons.
- Custom integrations can be expensive depending on the level of integration. 3rd party integrations can at times alleviate this.
- Added complexity
All in One Tool
All in one systems such as ones that do both Accounting and CRM are generally not the best of breed but offer their own set of pros and cons.
- You only have to deal with one vendor
- No integration complexities
- These systems usually don’t do either job exceptionally well compared to the best of breed applications. They do however do the job.
- Vendor lock in. With an all in one system it is more difficult to change one piece of your business changes.
Listed are only two pros and cons for each type of solution. It is up to the business to decide which one is the right path for them.
What direction did your company choose and why?
The Confirmation Email is likely one of the most important and least spoken about rules of email etiquette. Over time I have learned that people who send Confirmation Emails are some of the most easy people to work or do business with.
It is a simple process but enhances the relationship in multiple ways. Here is how it works.
No matter what kind of email you are sent you send some sort of confirmation telling the sender that you are on top of things. This keeps the sender from wondering whether you received it, whether it went into a spam box or if they are just ignoring you. Lets look at a few scenarios that I have seen this be extremely helpful in.
1. The Invoice – You send someone and invoice. Without the confirmation email you basically hope that they received it, processed it and that you are going to have a check show up before the Net period is over. More than likely, if this person is not a Confirmation Emailer your check will be late.
The confirmation emailer receives an invoice and responds as follows. “I have submitted this for payment” ( Actual customer response ). Now you know that they received it, there wasn’t an issue with the invoice or amount and that the invoice is being processed. This response shows a healthy responsive relationship and you will return the favor with prompt responses in the future.
2. The Task – You request that someone complete a task. Without the confirmation email you don’t know if the task was received or even if it will get completed.
The confirmation emailer will reply with “I’m on it” ( Actual confirmation response ). Again, you know that it was received and is being taken care of.
The great thing about the confirmation email is that it can be short and sweet but still lets people know that you are on top of things. We all get busy and overwhelmed but should strive to be Confirmation Emailers. Our stress levels, lives and relationships will all be better because of the Confirmation Email.
Have you ever noticed how when you buy a new car you suddenly seen them everywhere? Almost as if the act of buying the car opened your eyes to see the masses of other commuters who had that car.
Today I finished Jeff Jarvis’s What Would Google Do in audiobook format? This isn’t a revue of the book, there a plenty on Amazon, but an account on how the book opened my eyes. Like buying the car and seeing them everywhere, I listened to an audiobook and suddenly saw breakdowns in the system.
Jarvis talks about the link economy and the effects of linking data across sites and content. He also explains the profound impact of the link economy and peoples ability to quickly find data and learn from that data. A few short hours after the completion of the book I was researching data for CRMStage.com in relation to the GetSocial Twitter Pro module and realized a breakdown of the link economy.
The breakdown was that many article writers and large technology sites had created news and content mentioning the hard work done by my team but not linking to that work. I don’t want to come across as whining but would like to highlight the fact that many entrepreneurs and small businesses could be massively impacted in a positive way if credit was given. Credit, being a link.
Take a look at this example:
Inc.com writer John Brandon wrote an article How to Track Customers with CRM Tools which mentions a Twitter addon for SugarCRM, the addon which my team wrote. In this article he mentions the module, Twitter, SugarCRM and Zoho yet links to none.
So I pose these questions:
- How would links from such a popular site change the economy?
- How would links they provide promote business growth past there advertisers?
- How would it effect their business?
If I had not read What Would Google Do? I would not have realized the scale and impact of not having links in articles on these popular sites. The links that these articles are leaving out make it harder for readers to follow the path to knowledge. On a large scale the lack of links are impacting the economy. No links means data is harder to find which impacts purchasing. I am sure with enough time hundreds of other impacts could be brought forth.
In the end I want to thank Jarvis for a great book and for making me see how much of an impact the link has.
In the last Tips to Start Screencasting post we went over the software and hardware that is required to record a screencast. This time we are going to outline the time commitment.
1. Write a script – Once you have decided on the topic that you will be covering I suggest that you write a script which outlines what you are going to say. You will also want to read through that script to determine about how long it will take. The reason that I find this important is because each time you mess up during the recording it will add to the editing time. It also gives you an idea on the length of the video which is important depending on where the video is posted, the topic and the audience.
2. Prep the demo – Preparing the environment and doing a soft run through before recording will ensure that everything is in place before you hit the record button. If something is out of place during the recording it will either slow you down or cost you time in editing.
Reading a script, clicking and making it all seem like a natural demo without messing up is a difficult task. I have heard of two ways that people go about recording.
1. Record all together – Recording the sound and screen while speaking and clicking is a lot of work and must feel natural to be professional quality. This is very difficult to do but can be done with practice.
2. Record separately – I have spoken to individual that record sound and the screen separately which I have also tried. The problem that I run into with this is keeping everything in sync.
At this time I have not settled on the best approach but continue to research.
Editting: Celia Dyer once told me that your can expect 1 minute of editing for every minute of recording. At first this sounded a little high but after recording and editing a few of my own videos I find this to be an accurate expectation. I have also found that proper preparation up front can save you large amounts of editing time.
One example is with setting the intended length of the video. If you record a video that is 20 minutes long and you need it to be ten then you can expect a significantly higher amount of editing time and the 1 for 1 rule gets blown out of the water.
1. Format – The format of the video will be dictated by where the video is being published. Before you start recording you will want to determine the screen resolution and other playback criteria and change your settings accordingly.
2. Publishing the final -The one item that I always see left out when people talk about the time to produce a screencast is the time it takes to process and publish. Once the video has completed editing it has to processed and converted into the appropriate format. the time for this varies depending on the video length, quality and speed of the system.
After the video is process and formatted it has to be published. You could always just log in to YouTube or TubeMogul and publish in minutes but that doesn’t take into account SEO or searchablility. Taking the time to pick a keyword rich title, description and tags could enhance the traffic for your video.
As always, we hope this is helpful information and would enjoy seeing your screencasts. If you decide to create them after reading this short series then please let us know and provide a link.
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